Saturday nights we take solace knowing our mothers have no idea where we are. Some of us, we don’t even call them Mom anymore. We call them Laura, Pauline, Janice, Cindy. They yell at us as we bolt out the door with our boards in our hands, insisting we revert to calling them Mother, Ma, Mommy Dearest—like we did when we were little kids.
But we’re not little anymore. We’re mousetraps waiting to snap, vulnerable and dangerous. We don’t scare from adults or authority—like Blake, who once saw a cop car crawling toward the skatepark and yelled, “Oink oink! I smell bacon!” Or Carson, who couldn’t land a crooked grind and got so pissed he flung his board into the street. The board smacked a car as it drove past and the guy driving actually stopped and got out.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” the dude screeched, in that uptight, way-too-serious voice all middle-aged guys in neckties seem to have.
Carson grabbed the guy by the throat, hissed at him to get back in the car. The man’s wife and kids were in there, screaming for Carson to stop. We all stayed quiet a while after they drove off.
Then there are those of us who are timid and shy. The weak ones, the funny ones, the serious, those too smart for our own good, even some dimwitted ones. A few us are maestros atop our boards, with the chance of going pro if we just focus a little more—moving like water, like the wind flapping beneath our oversized t-shirts.
We leave the house when we wake up at 1PM, 2PM, maybe 3, but never before noon. Never. Before. Noon. Who needs a shower when you’re about to sweat all day long? We stay gone ’til the sun’s on the verge of coming up, half-drunk or half-stoned, our legs rubber—maybe from the booze or the bud, maybe from skating. Is there a box we can check for all of the above?
We hit the sidewalks and streets in packs, wolves on the prowl for new spots—loading docks and ledges, staircases and curbs. Every weekend is a new expedition, a scavenger hunt for more daunting obstacles. We skate until security guards chase us away, more middle-aged fuckwits in cheap ties emerging from office buildings, telling us we need to leave. “YOU CAN’T BE HERE!” they whine. Their outrage turns us into hyenas, cackling and feral. Someone dials 911 and we turn to smoke when a cop car peels onto the block.
Our boards scrape down the pavement, clunk clunk clunk, swift strikes from our feet propelling us further into the night. We close our eyes to better feel cool wind whipping around us, sliding up our shirts like the hands of girls that want nothing to do with us. Caressing us the way our mothers did when we were little boys. We spread our arms out, clunk clunk clunk, shaped like Ts, like crucifixes. Goofy-footed Christs nailed to thin air.
Listen: the rush of nearby traffic.
Feel: earth vibrating beneath us.
We are nothing in this moment—phantoms, intangible. We leave the earth with all its conquerable concrete, float away from streetlights, up into space where the frozen planets from our dreams await. For a moment—a split second—this is where we live, in the nothingness, where no one can touch us—not our overbearing mothers or our fathers with their vicious hands after they’ve had one too many whiskeys, not teachers who look down on us from the bridges of their noses, not cops who overstep their power even as we cry “I’M ONLY 15, DUDE! LET GO!” We are safe here amongst the planets, the black depths of hollow space. Safe from whatever we wish to escape.
Another kick to the pavement. Shoot forward, chase after the rippling backs of our friends. Will we still be comrades in five years? In one? On this Saturday night it does not matter. Some of us will not live to see 18. Car accidents and drunken incidents at unsupervised keggers. One of us will meet his doom doing this very thing, the only thing we love—a fractured skull resulting in a coma. Or Jake, who will stab a homeless man 13 times and get 68 years in prison—always the one who was too angry, who we were all a little afraid of, a Molotov cocktail waiting to explode. We’ll wish we could say we were surprised, but we saw it coming. There’s one of us who will turn this hobby, this late night debauchery, into a career. We’ll see him in magazines, in skate videos like the ones we watch when we’re shoveling snacks into our mouths, spread out on the floor of somebody’s bedroom. We’ll pretend to be proud for him while doing our best to not expose our jealousy. Some of us will give up on skating, realize we care more about the music in the videos than the skating itself—start bands and find new scenes to invest our time in. Others will tire of it because that’s what you do when you’re this young. Some of us will know one another forever, attend each other’s weddings, while others will simply fade away, an incanted name, “What ever happened to Andrew? Kyle? Ethan? Joey?”
But watch us now for what we are: juvenile whirlwinds, suburban warlords bushwhacking through the dead of night. Hear us coming, clunk clunk clunk—get out of the way, man!
Ryan and Tyler, they can’t skate worth a shit—couldn’t land a kickflip if they tried—but they got those new digital camcorders for Christmas, the models you don’t have to cram a tape into. They’re good enough on their boards to keep up with us and film our footwork. They capture everything, every success and failure. Every OOOOHHHH! when we land something sick—something we’ve been trying to land for weeks—and every OOOOHHHH! when we hit the pavement hard, bail off our boards, land on our asses and elbows. They capture our manic outbursts—slinging our boards across the empty parking lot, hurling them into the air, silver trucks on the underside glinting beneath sodium light. We raise our boards over our heads like barbarian warriors, skin scraped from our arms, screaming “FUCK!” as we strike the curb, releasing our aggression. When our boards come back down or spring back into our hands, snapped in two, we scream louder, knowing our fun is done for the evening. Still Ryan and Tyler are filming, while we stare at the two hunks of splintered wood in our hands, trying our best not to cry. Whatever we do, we will not let the others see our tears. Choke it down. Do not, under any circumstances, reveal you care about anything. Crying = weakness, and we are not weak—just look how hard we skate.
We devour Lemonheads and sunflower seeds, wash them down with cans of Arizona Tea. We skate to the one gas station that never cards and Wesley, the only one capable of growing a convincing mustache, goes in and reemerges with two 40s and a pack of cigarettes. We skate and drink and smoke and skate and drink and smoke. The last of our cash scores us bean burritos at Taco Bell. We sit on the curb with our boards under our feet, eating, buzzed and sweaty. People eye us suspiciously when they walk past, illustrating portraits of our delinquency in their minds. Tonight we are not the sons of rich parents. We are not honor roll students or aspiring artists. We are teenage enigmas, street urchins in search of mayhem. That’s what these strangers believe, and we’re happy for them to imagine nothing different.
When Sunday morning arrives, we rouse from beneath the sheets we’ve had since childhood—Batman, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles—and some of our parents force us to put on the one ill-fitting button down we own and make us go to church. We sit at kitchen tables, in the backseats of sedans, and meet our parents’ eyes and they ask us, “What’d you get up to last night?”
We shrug and sigh—any subtle action to display our disinterest.
“Nothing,” we groan. “Just skated.”
It feels like a lie when we say it. It wasn’t just skating, was it? Something primal, something liberating, something fulfilling. Right? Wasn’t it all those things? But as our words hang in the air, thinning, dispersing, we wonder if maybe we’re wrong. Maybe it was nothing more than that. Maybe these weekend rituals mean nothing at all. Perhaps that’s all it is. Perhaps we’re just skating.
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